Though not immediately apparent from the CD cover, this is a reissue
of an historic recording originally made in 1987. The two trumpet
players held positions at the Eastman School of Music and were
active in the Music of the Baroque Orchestra in Chicago. The disc
presents an attractive recital of arrangements of music by Bach
and Handel, all but one being a duet.
The venue for
the recording was the First Lutheran Church, Lyons, New York
which contained a 1970 Schlicker tracker organ. This organ
was inspired by the 17th century German organ building
techniques which would have been familiar to Bach. The church
itself is similar in construction to the German Lutheran churches
in Thuringia and is described as having an excellent acoustic.
The organ was
fully encased and free-standing and was placed in the rear
gallery of the church. It had a mechanical key and pedal action
with an electrical stop action.
The recital opens
with an arrangement of the final chorus from Bach’s Christmas
Oratorio followed by four duets taken from Cantatas nos.
111, 134, 140 and 33. Finally we hear two of Handel’s Italian
Duets, the duets on which he famously based the choruses
The standard of
trumpet playing here is superb. If it came down to just this,
then I would have no hesitation in recommending the recording.
Unfortunately, to my ears, the organ accompaniment lets the
recital down, even allowing for the historic status of the
Whenever the trumpets
are playing, organist Barbara Harbach adopts a rather light,
high registration which tinkles harpsichord-like in the background
and entirely fails to balance with, or support the soloists.
The organ’s lower registration, by contrast, is strong and
combines with the acoustic to boom somewhat. This unfortunate
combination means that when the trumpeters are playing the
effect is of them being accompanied by a strong organ bass-line
and a very, very distant right hand harmony. This is not an
isolated effect, but seems to have been adopted for all the
trumpet passages. Harbach’s registration in the ritornelli
is rather better and shows what she can do. The acoustic also
contrives to render the organ sound a little soggy.
were all done by the organist, Barbara Harbach.
The superb trumpet
playing on this disc makes it worth a listen, but the rather idiosyncratic
organ accompaniment render it unsatisfactory for regular listening.